Moscow, Russia, May 31, 2015 - There is no question about it, the team to beat on the FIVB World Tour for a goal medal is Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil.
The top-seeded South American did lose a match this week in pool play Wednesday, but Talita and Larissa rebounded with five-straight Moscow Grand Slam wins highlighted by a 2-0 (21-17, 21-14) gold medal win over seventh-seeded Madelein Meppelink and Marleen Van Iersel of The Netherlands in 40 minutes.
The podium topping finish was the fifth-straight gold medal performance for Talita and Larissa, including four FIVB World Tour Grand Slam victories. In addition to sharing the US$57,000 first-place prize, the Brazilians also earned 800 points for the international event that is the first “big” tournament during the qualifying process for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Meppelink and Van Iersel, the reigning European champions, split $43,000 for placing second as the silver medal finish earned them 720 points. Italians Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth netted the bronze medal by defeating a team from China in the third-place match. The 13th-seeded Italians shared $32,000 for third-place along with 640 points.
Sunday’s match was the second meeting between the two Moscow finalists with Talita and Larissa winning the first last season at the Polish Grand Slam last August in Stare Jablonki where the Brazilians collected the second of their now five FIVB World Tour gold medals.
Playing in their seventh FIVB World Tour event together, Talita and Larissa advanced to the finals with a 2-0 (21-13, 23-21) semi-final win Saturday in 33 minutes over 10th-seeded Fan Wang and Yuan Yue of China. The Dutch earned a spot in their second international final with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-16) win in 38-minute over Menegatti and Orsi Toth.
After placing ninth in their first FIVB World Tour starts together last July, Talita and Larissa have won 35 of their last 37 matches. A 29-match winning streak was halted Thursday with a setback to Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan of Canada in Pool A competition, but the Brazilians started a new streak to win their group and leave Moscow with five-straight wins.
After finishing second last year in Moscow with Taiana Lima, Talita secured her first-ever medal in the Russian capital. Larissa now has two Moscow golds and five total medals. Larissa won the 2009 Russian title with Juliana Felisberta as the pair also placed second once (2011) and third twice (2010 and 2012). Overall, Talita and Larissa have a 41-5 match record.
The Dutch “M&M” girls were playing in their second FIVB World Tour final as Meppelink and Van Iersel finished second two weeks ago in Switzerland where they dropped the title match to a German team in three-sets. The Moscow Grand Slam was the 13th international event for Meppelink and Van Iersel with four podium placements and five “final four” finishes together. Overall, the Dutch have a 53-22 match mark together.
Menegatti and Orsi Toth captured the bronze medal match Sunday in the $800,000 Moscow Grand Slam by posting a 2-1 (14-21, 21-19, 16-14) win in 55 minutes over the 10th-seeded Wang and Yue. It was the second-straight FIVB Grand Slam medal for the Italians after losing a finale last September in Brazil to Talita and Larissa.
After this week’s event, the FIVB World Tour’s first “Major Series” stops are set for Croatia (Poreč, June 1-7) and Norway (Stavanger, June 8-14) before international circuit crosses the Atlantic for the final world championship “tune up” in the United States for the St. Petersburg Grand Slam in Florida (June 15-21).
The FIVB ‘senior” Beach Volleyball World Championships will begin June 26 with competition be held at four sites in The Netherlands. With medal matches for both genders being held in The Hague, the women’s podium placement contests will be July 4 with the men the next day.